Since hitting the spotlight in 2012, twenty-six-year-old Damini Ogulu popularly known as Burna Boy has with one song after another proven to be an indispensable musical entity. While one has never had a cause to question the degree of his sonic proficiency, his enfant terrible persona has put fans in a position where they have to constantly put up a defensive front in favour of the singer.
An exclusive report by NET in 2013 revealed that Burna Boy had been tried as a minor in the United Kingdom and sentenced to jail for allegedly stabbing someone to death. He was said to have served an eleven months jail time and later released on parole for two months with community service which he shirked and retreated to Nigeria in pursuit of his musical career.
His unauthorized departure to Nigeria during this time earned him a 15-year ban from the United Kingdom which was later lifted after 5 years in 2016. His freedom was celebrated with a Homecoming Concert which took place in the 5,000 Eventim Apollo Hall in London.
From allegedly getting physical with Zimbabwean singer Buffalo Soulja in South Africa, threatening to murk bloggers who make negative reports around his name to being pictured with a firearm, Burna Boy was again in 2015 roped by series of controversies.
But more recent and far more harrowing, the singer was declared wanted by the Lagos state commissioner of Police for his alleged involvement in the attack that was launched against fellow singer Mr 2kay in Eko Hotels and Suites. After weeks of evading the law, Burna boy soon turned himself in and was slammed with a two count charge. While he was immediately released on bail pending a court hearing that was slated to hold on the 29th of December in 2017, nothing else has been said about the case as he is yet to be proven guilty or otherwise.
Being occasionally clouded by controversy has over time given rise to the valid question of whether ethical consumption of his music is possible as it almost seems as though the extent of his success is directly proportional to the height of his unexplainable dodginess.
As if to finally offer closure, Burna Boy has released a 13-track mixtape that accommodates litters of the experiences that shaped him into this bitter-sweet individual. On the OUTSIDE mixtape, Burna offers no apologies – instead it is a musical memoir that leaves listeners with the task of connecting the dots to ascertain a final judgment of his personality.
The project opened with a breezy one minute thirty-four seconds long interlude titled ‘More Life’. This record was originally made for Drake’s 2017 More Life project but inconspicuously failed to make the final cut. The airy 40-produced instrumental set the mood for the autobiography that followed.
“I grew up in a place called PH City, and if you see me, me dawgs dem with me”, went the chorus of the second track titled “City Vibration”. Burna Boy had revealed during the private listening of the project that this record was birthed on one of his trips to his home city – Port Harcourt.
For the longest time, news of unexciting happenings from political to social crisis have tailed the city of Port Harcourt and according to the singer, being exposed to some of these conditions contributed largely to the formation of his seemingly Jekyll and Hyde personality. “My father na Port Harcourt boy original Even my mother sef na Port Harcourt original – Me come from the home’a the smooth criminal – Deadly striker, we n’attack no subliminal”, he sang citing that this supposed ruggedness runs deep in his family.
In the track that followed, Koni Baje, the singer puts his versatility on display – tapping into northern Nigeria musical influences (Hausa percussions and undertones) as a soundtrack for his sermon of being victimized. “I no wan talk o, wetin dey happen o, na me dem one stop o, mission impossible”, he sang impeccably. Heaven’s Gate ft English singer Lily Allen which is perhaps the most celebrated record on the tape centers around the same theme of betrayal and being a victim of phony associations; “Anyway I thought you was a G but you’re any snake I swear down you can’t come around my estate” he sang opening the track. He didn’t also fail to disclose that he is positioned to come for anyone who underestimates him; “You must I think say you badder than ISIS Cah you got a few likkle devices. You must not know who my guys is Cause if you did you woulda never ever come try this”, he asserted.
With pre-released singles like; Sekkle Down ft buzzing UK act J-Hus and Rock Your Body, Burna Boy appealed to his lustfulness providing laid-back deliveries of his sexual fantasies. While feel-good records like Giddem and Ye (which he revealed was recorded unconsciously after a great night out at a Lagos nightclub) saw the singer preaching the gospel of living life to the fullest as it is impossible to meet the demands of man. “Make you know say anything wey you do dem must commentate (i can’t coman kill myself), So anything wey i dey do I dey try to dey do am my way (i can’t coman kill myself)”, he sang carefreely on the Phantom produced instrumental.
The rest of the project is an unapologetic musical expository that sees Burna Boy positioning himself as a misunderstood public figure who receives so much backlash from people who are clueless about what life has put him through. “From a place where nobody believes in us, so we believe in ourselves. Jah Jah helps only those who help themselves in this cold world. Opportunity is a very scarce commodity”, he sang as he closed out the fifth track – Where I’m From.
On sonic dexterity, the OUTSIDE mixtape is Burna Boy’s most versatile offering that saw him push far beyond the boundaries of his musical dimensions – balancing speed, depth, and storytelling.
Abstractly, the project embodies the singer’s truth and offers to the public; a light text of his personal experiences. Burna tenders no apology of any sort and his obvious reason is that life has put him in some pretty tough situations and the result of these conditions is what the public has to deal with.
Whether or not this compensates for the heartbreak(s) that he’s put his fans through is an answer that only his supporters can provide.
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